It’s been over a year since the severe rain event and flash flood of April 29, 2014 collapsed the culverts that once supported the historic Eglin Railroad that at one time crossed Turkey Creek. The collapse created potential dangers to paddlers and the creek had to be closed while repairs to the section were completed. There were several setbacks and delays while Eglin AFB secured contracts for rerouting fiber optic cables that also crossed the location. Finally, the wait is over and the creek has been reopened for kayaking and canoeing.
For those that are unfamiliar with one of the best local paddling destinations, you can learn about all of the access requirements and put-in/take-out locations here. More recent updates continue below.
Turkey Creek is navigable once again from the Hippie Hole put-in on RR 233 all the way down to Boggy Bayou in Niceville. There are a few changes that paddlers will notice along the route. A year of unhindered plant growth has given the upper portion of the creek a wilder experience. The clear, sand-bottomed creek still twists and turns with abandon along it’s length. There are a few new log obstacles, but a clear path remains around them. As the summer progresses a few paddlers will do a bit of pruning and trimming to make things a bit easier in the most troublesome spots.
One of the new changes along the creek was heard well before it was seen and that is at the bridge along State Road 123 where major construction is underway. Erosion control barriers were in place but posed no problems to us while traversing this section. One friendly construction worker even waved hello as our group passed.
Continuing on, we observed some maintenance clearing done near a main powerline crossing before the NWFLOA team finally arrived at the location of the former railroad crossing. The culverts have been completely removed and the surrounding area cleared. A new set of utility poles has been erected that carry lines high above the creek. Cut logs and old brush are piled high on both sides of the bank, seemingly creating an impenetrable embankment to prevent further erosion. Just past the logs lies the sandbar that always awaited paddlers after they exited the culverts.
Twice along our trip we encountered non-venomous water snakes hanging in the branches above the creek. The snakes were more worried about maintaining their grip among the branches than worrying about our passage. It is a rare occurrence that a snake will actually fall into a boat. There were also turtle sightings and even one Great heron on the prowl. Past animal sightings have included wild pig, deer, raccoon and even alligator. The alligators tend to keep to the swampy sections and are seldom seen in the main creek.
After about 4 hours of drift-paddling and stopping to cool off a couple of times, our group arrived at our chosen take-out on College Blvd at North Turkey Creek Extension. Taking out here during the busy summer months helps to avoid the crowds of swimmers at the board walk a few hundred feet downstream. Ultimately, it was a great trip and we will definitely be repeating it this summer.